January 27, 2012
A disorder that takes place when your body produces an insufficient amount of certain hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands is called Addison’s disease. With Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and often times an insufficient amount of aldosterone as well. Doctors sometimes refer to Addison’s disease as the illness of chronic adrenal insufficiency, or also called hypocortisolism.
“In 1855, Thomas Addison first described adrenal insufficiency, which was subsequently named after him. The basis of Addison disease has dramatically changed since its initial description. Originally, the disease usually resulted from an infection of the adrenal gland; the most common infection was tuberculosis, which is still the predominant cause of Addison disease in developing countries. Currently, in developed countries, Addison disease most commonly results from nonspecific autoimmune destruction of the adrenal gland.” The most important function of cortisol is to aid the body in its response to stress. Cortisol also helps the body regulate its use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates; maintain cardiovascular function and blood pressure as well as control inflammation. Aldosterone helps the kidneys regulate the amount of salt and water in the body, which is the main way to keep blood pressure under control. When the body’s aldosterone level drops too low, the kidneys have a hard time keeping salt and water levels in balance, which makes your blood pressure drop.
Addison’s disease has two forms. If the adrenal glands themselves have a problem, it’s called primary adrenal insufficiency. If it is the adrenal glands being affected by a problem starting somewhere else, for example in the pituitary gland, it can be called a secondary adrenal insufficiency.
Symptoms for Addison’s disease are nonspecific and usually develop slowly, often times over the course...